The foundations of the Lion Tower

The foundations of the Lion Tower

As you prepare to enter the Tower across the moat, you pass the remains of the Royal Menagerie. It was founded by King John (1199-1215). Records show that in 1236 Frederick the second, the Holy Roman Emperor gave 3 leopards to Henry III as part of his wedding gift and in 1240 there is the first record of a lion at the Tower. Interestingly 2 Lion skulls and a leopard’s skull have been found in excavations in the moat, which have been dated to the 13th century. DNA testing has indicated that they were probably Barbary Lions (a species now extinct) from north west Africa.

King Louis Ix of France presented James I with an elephant which was kept at the Tower

King Louis IX of France presented James I with an elephant which was kept at the Tower

The collection continued to grow over the centuries reaching its peak in the 17th century and amongst the animals recorded are camels, an elephant, ostriches, monkeys and a polar bear. During the 18th centuries the collection began to dwindle and although it had a brief renaissance in the early 19th century it became clear that the cramped conditions of the Tower were not beneficial to the health of either the animals or of the humans living there. In 1830 the decision was taken to donate the remaining collection to The Zoological Society of London, who founded their own Zoological gardens on the north side of Regents Park, where it is today.


The moat surrounding the Tower of London was originally built by Henry III as a defensive ditch rather than a moat. It was not until the 13th century that it was connected to the Thames and flooded with water. However over time, the changing level of the river meant that there was little water flow between the river and the moat meaning that the moat water became stagnant. In the 19th century, the Duke of Wellington, concerned at the health risk the stagnant moat posed to the garrison ordered it drained and it has remained dry every since.



It has been used as a site for filming and in recent winters as the site of an ice skating rink, but perhaps most memorably as the site of the ceramic poppies display during the World War 1 commemorations in 2014.






Tower of London with the modern city skyline in the background

Tower of London with the modern city skyline in the background


The Tower of London lies at the eastern end of the medieval walled city. Its foundation dates from 1066, shortly after King William arrived as the conqueror in London. However the earliest remaining part of the Tower today is the White Tower, which now forms the central keep, which he began in 1078.

The White Tower

The White Tower


The White Tower

The White Tower

The Tower has served over the years as a royal palace, prison, treasury and mint, armoury, public records office and the site of London’s first zoo – all of which I shall be looking at in future posts.

Map of the Tower as it is today

Map of the Tower as it is today


The outer wall and moat

The outer wall and moat

A bright flower to brighten up a very wet dull day in London

Caléndula — Photography Art Plus

Missing the great outdoors

Posted: July 24, 2020 in Art, Landscape

I guess that one of the big downsides of lockdown for me has been the restriction on travel and I am really missing the wide open spaces. I have been reflecting this in my painting and so am sharing with you a couple of paintings I have done on this theme over the past couple of weeks.

Looking forward to the time when I can experience them in reality

This great picture of Stonehenge reminds me that I haven’t been back to the site in recent years and must plan to do so once we are back to travelling

A few weeks ago I was going through my ever growing library of photos on my iPad which stands at something like 64GB and I came across a particularly atmospheric photo I took of Stonehenge. Most people that I take there with Ye Olde England Tours like to go in the summer and they like sunny […]

A moody photo of Stonehenge — Stephen Liddell

On Monday Sue and I travelled down to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve to meet our friends Keith and Elaine for a, socially distanced, picnic lunch. It was the first time we had been able to meet up this year. After lunch Keith and I went for a walk around the reserve.

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs provided most of the musical accompaniment as we searched each of the lakes that make up this reserve. Although the number of bird species present was low (not surprising at this time of year) we managed 6 species of Butterfly and 5 species of Dragonfly. it was a lovely summer afternoon and a lovely walk around the lakes.

Interesting blog by Stephen Liddell on one of the many disused churches in the city of London

When I was out in London last week, I went on a walk of discovery. As is often the way in London, I ‘discovered’ several places but also got the chance to visit somewhere I knew perfectly well even though I’d never been there… at least not for 6 or 7 years and never to […]

The forlorn church of St Mary Somerset — Stephen Liddell

Raging Bull

Posted: July 10, 2020 in Art

One of my tasks over the Lockdown has been making a digital record of the paintings I have done. This is one of my favourites which I did some years ago at an art class.

Come with me to one of the best Nature Reserves in the country as we visited Oare Marshes last week. The best bird was a Little Gull, sadly to far away to photograph